Australian copper mine company Oz Minerals is planning to make a huge commitment to solar power and other renewable energies by using them to help run a $1 billion mine at Carrapateena. This use of renewables in the South Australian mine will be the country’s biggest ever by a mining company.

The company has decided to make more use of solar following blackouts that disrupted industries across South Australia earlier in 2016, creating worries over long-term energy security. Oz Minerals has a dedicated team looking at different energy options, and while no technologies have been ruled out as yet, solar is definitely a front-runner. In the past, mining companies have eschewed renewables in favour of onsite gas or diesel supplies, but renewables are looking increasingly attractive.

Sandfire Resources recently installed a 10MW solar plant with 6MW of battery capacity in its Degrussa mine, and Rio Tinto has a 1.7MW solar array in its Weipa mine, with plans to grow it to 6.7MW with storage.

Worldwide solar success

These moves follow on from successes in Chile and South Africa in which mines have really benefitted from huge solar installations. Storage facilities can only strengthen these benefits.

The recent South Australian blackouts affected many mines in the region and so they, along with more remote towns and facilities, are looking to supplement their energy sources with renewables to increase their energy security.

A work in progess

Cole says he was looking at a number of alternative energy sources to support Carrapateena, not just solar, as the project takes shape over the next three years.

Oz Minerals says it is exploring several different renewable energy solutions – not just solar – to help the Carrapateena mine along. The mine may not start off as renewables-only, but if these forms of energy feed into it as it develops, this will reduce its reliance on the grid and on diesel. As solar storage systems continue to improve, the role the sun plays in mining in Australia can only grow.